January 2012 | Sponsored | Knowledge Base

The Role of Cloud-Based LTL Content in Smarter Supply Chains

Tags: Trucking, Cloud Computing

Danny Slaton, Executive Vice President, Business & Product Development, SMC3, 770-486-5850

Cloud computing is quickly coming into its own: Its virtual, service-oriented, location-independent architecture is used across a whole host of industries to provide on-demand content for accurate decision making. The U.S. freight industry is quickly catching on to the value of actionable content delivered via the cloud, which easily lends itself to supporting effective supply chain management (SCM) and optimization (SCO) strategies and initiatives.

On-demand content is especially critical in the less-than-truckload (LTL) industry. LTL transports roughly $30 billion of finished consumer products, food products and raw materials in the United States annually. In the heyday of excess LTL carrier capacity—before the recession forced LTL carrier consolidation and slashed carrier capacity—shippers and logistics service providers (LSPs) could "shop" for low LTL carrier rates and largely ignore the supply chain risks of price-only-based carrier selection.

Today's supply chain operates in a much different environment. Embedding an under-qualified carrier in your supply chain might easily mean missed delivery deadlines that cascade into stock or parts outages, unnecessary warehouse staffing, excessive warehousing and distribution space expenses, etc.—problems that still surface in even the best-run organizations.

Our discussions with shippers and LSPs convinced us that providing them with insight into LTL carriers' regional or interregional expertise, partnership capabilities, transit times, on-time delivery qualifications, and operational capabilities were a prerequisite for effective SCM and SCO. With that conviction in mind, we recently released CarrierConnect XL—delivered via our private cloud-based XL platform.

The XL platform is a technology-agnostic mechanism for delivering content, and CarrierConnect XL enables carriers to update their content in near-real time, including detailed, terminal-level contact information and operational capabilities like points-of-service, hours of operations and transit time variations based on service points and terminals. This carrier content gives shippers/LSPs deep insight into the dynamic world of carriers, where service and transit times change constantly, impacted by expanding or contracting terminal services areas, line haul and route reconfiguration, delivery schedule changes, new services, or even disruptions outside a carrier's control (like infrastructure breakdowns or regulatory constraints).

Perhaps more importantly, shippers and LSPs can now use CarrierConnect XL to calculate and re-calculate multiple "what-if" shipping lane and timeline scenarios and ensure accurate routing decisions that support strategic management of distribution networks and transportation, logistics and supply chain solutions. Through SMC3's RateWare XL and CarrierConnect XL, rates and transit times are now routinely factored into shipper/LSP optimization runs and integrated into transportation management system (TMS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, including SAP TM 8.0.

CarrierConnect XL is just part of our larger XL strategy, which is developed to provide cloud-based computing benefits to carriers, shippers and LPSs. XL supports both Windows- and Java-based technologies and offers advantages—including ease of integration and access to RateWare XL web services, that can be created, added and deployed without impacting existing LSP customers' customers, for example. In addition, backward compatibility also ensures XL infrastructure is designed to support redundancy at all levels and is further supported with SAN architecture, supporting pricing for several hundred individual carriers as well as the LTL industry's benchmark pricing via CzarLite modules.

We fully realize that successful supply chains depend upon timely, actionable LTL service, transit time and pricing data from carriers. As always, our goal is to provide products that support content exchange between carriers, shippers and LSPs, so they can build efficient networks, support effective supply chains, and expand their ability to act with precision and intelligence.

SMC³ provides content, technology products and solutions, and educational benefits to more than 5,000 customers and members operating throughout continental North America. Shippers, carriers, logistics service providers (LSPs) and freight-payment companies rely on SMC³'s core expertise—transportation pricing—to support their successful transportation, freight planning and supply chain planning activities.

To learn more about how SMC3 CarrierConnect XL can help you secure your best LTL results, download our white paper: "CarrierConnect Dynamic LTL Carrier Service Information" or call us at 800-845-8090.